Kate Mara, breaking through with Fantastic Four and promoting equal opportunities for women

Kate Mara

With Fantastic Four currently in theatres actress Kate Mara, who plays Susan Storm, the Invisible Woman, is finally getting her spot in the sun among Hollywood stars, after years of supporting roles. Despite the heavy criticism the movie has received and the production troubles splattered over every industry publication, Fantastic Four is still a superhero blockbuster that can broad the notoriety of its cast members.

Kate’s last name would suggest that her Italian roots lie on her father’s side, whereas it is really her mother who is of Italian descent; Marraccini being the family name. There’s an added value to the actress’s family. She was born into American sports royalty. Her paternal great-grandparents were the founders of the New York Giants football team, while her great-grandparents on her mother’s side were the founders of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Throughout generations her extended family has been in control of both teams; as of today her father is a scout and the vice president of player evaluation for the Giants, while her mother is still tied with the Steelers. A trip to the ballpark for Kate and her siblings (including sister Rooney, also an actress of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame) has always meant a family reunion. Both Kate and her younger sister, whose first name is really Patricia, have their mother’s maiden name Rooney as their middle name; to avoid confusion Patricia uses it as stage name and goes by Rooney Mara professionally. Kate was the first to start in the business with a brilliant debut, when she was only 16 years old, in Random Hearts directed by the late Sydney Pollack, which saw her playing opposite Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Later she appealed to her football background by appearing in We Are Marshall, starring Matthew McConaughey, which recalled the aftermath of the 1970 Marshall University plane crash that took the lives of most of the football team. In her career she has taken part in several Oscar nominated films like Brokeback Mountain and 127 hours but it was TV that made her face a familiar one with larger audiences. First, as computer analyst Shari Rothenberg in the fifth season of the action filled series 24 and more recently in the critically acclaimed House of Cards. In the Netflix’s political drama Mara played the part of Zoe Barnes, an ambitious reporter from Washington, D.C. with seductiveness and intelligence in her array of qualities, which ultimately gained her an Emmy Award nomination.

As it became apparent with the release of Fantastic Four the actress is at a ‘turning point’ in her career and for that she was recently crowned Women in Film Max Mara Face Of The Future Award 2015. It’s a recognition that the Italian fashion house awards annually to an actress able to embody grace and style in and out the movie roles. The Maramotti family created the award about ten years ago to support women in developing their talent and employed the help of the organization Women in Film, which encourages the idea of women being equally represented in the industry. Kate flew in from Belfast, where she has been shooting Morgan, a sci-fi thriller produced by Ridley Scott and directed by his son Luke, exclusively to be present at the lavish party taking place at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles.

More than the award itself, her reason to attend was to show her gratitude and confirm how the stories she chooses to tell can and do make a difference. In fact she’s become more and more conscious about choosing projects that are challenging and can enrich her life. It may be working with a director she admires or wanting to explore a subject she would like to get more knowledge of, she will always gravitate towards roles outside of her comfort zone. Also, as she grew older, she felt the responsibility to fight for the right of women to be active part of the conversation in the film industry. Not just more significant roles or equal pay as their male counterparts, but also the right to assume important decisional roles in the business such as producers, directors, writers.

Mara recalls how too often in her past experiences she was the only woman on set; that is something she would like to see changing in a Hollywood system that still sees itself as men’s game. Before the end of the year Mara will be seen alongside Matt Damon in The Martian, which is supposed to be a big award contender. She will be playing an astronaut, something she says, she could have never been in real life; enclosed spaces drive her crazy. Once again it’s a testament to her will to take on something that scares her in order to better herself as an artist and human being.


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